D.C. United, MLS playoff schedule

D.C. United’s first appearance in the MLS playoffs in five years will occur Saturday night against New York at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., the clubs announced Sunday.

The final leg in the total-goals Eastern Conference semifinal series will take place next Wednesday, Nov. 7, at RFK Stadium. Both matches will start at 8 p.m. TV details have not been finalized, but NBC Sports Network is expected to carry both games between the longtime rivals.

The clubs were even in the season series: United won at home, 4-1, lost on the road, 3-2, and tied at home, 2-2. D.C. has never lost a playoff series to New York in three previous meetings (1996, 2004, 2006).

“This is what I wanted, to be honest,” said midfielder Chris Pontius, who recorded a hat trick in the first match against the Red Bulls in April and two goals in June. “You welcome the challenge. In the playoffs, you have to play some tough teams, so why not do it early?”

United (17-10-7, 58 points) is unbeaten in seven straight and, with a 1-1 draw at Chicago on Saturday, clinched the No. 2 seed in the East behind Sporting Kansas City (18-7-9, 63). The Red Bulls (16-9-9, 57) were tied with Chicago (17-11-6, 57) for third place and won the first tiebreaker (goals scored, 57-46).

In Wednesday’s first-round match, the Fire will host the fifth-seeded Houston Dynamo (14-9-11, 53), with the winner facing Kansas City in a two-game series starting next weekend.

In the Western playoffs, the top-seeded San Jose Earthquakes (19-6-9, 66) will await the winner of Wednesday’s Thursday’s first-round game between the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy and fifth-seeded Vancouver Whitecaps. The Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake will meet in the other semifinal.

[Check here for additional details.]

DCU regular season, by the numbers…..

Goals leader: Chris Pontius (12).

Assists leader: Dwayne De Rosario (12).

Players who scored: 15.

Players who started in league play: 24 (including Danny Cruz, who was traded).

Players who didn’t start or play in league matches: goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra (third-string keeper), defender Ethan White (preseason knee injury), midfielder Lance Rozeboom (ACL surgery), Raphael Augusto (late-season loan acquisition), defender Conor Shanosky (season-long loan to NASL Fort Lauderdale).

Home points: 40, most in the league (12-1-4).

Away points: 18 (5-9-3).

Point improvement vs. 2011: 19 (58-39).

Record vs. playoff teams: 3-8-4 (all three wins were at home: New York, Houston, Chicago).

Record vs. non-playoff teams: 14-2-3 (lost to Columbus and Montreal on the road).

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.



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Steven Goff · October 27, 2012

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